EU bans 'sock-puppets'

Dodgy blogs beware

You may think a sock-puppet is a cute soft thing, best used for entertaining kids or drunken friends, but in fact it's a person creating a website or blog, implying independence and oozing credibility, cynically engineered by a major company in order to promote their own product. 'Sock-puppet' blogs, sporting mock trendiness and designed to appeal to the media savvy youth through an emerging and oh-so fashionable medium, have been spotted in the games industry previously, as firms look to marketing approaches that best target their hard to reach demographic.

Bad news for such companies, though, as the EU have announced plans to ban sock-puppets, making it illegal for companies to self-promote through websites which give the illusion of independence. A report from UK newspaper The Times states that the law will become effective from December 31st, banning activity “falsely representing oneself as a consumer”.

Those transgressing the new directives will be named and shamed by Trading Standards or taken to court, the law also covers people with a vested interest reviewing their own products on sites such as Amazon.

With regard to gaming, Sony have in the past indulged in a spot of 'sock-puppetry', having launched a fake teen site 'All I want for Xmas is a PSP' which featured rap-speak and plenty of MySpace 'chic', all orchestrated by a subsequently 'flamed' US ad agency. Likewise in Europe, Sony have also 'sponsored' a UK blog (ThreeSpeech), operated by a PR firm, which while far-less shameless than the Xmas-PSP example, still might fall-foul of the new EU law.

What are your thoughts on this kind of activity?

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